moment 10

a town with nothing to do. a weekend free from school but no place to go. so we would meet at the wall in the high street and chat. there was no pre-arranged time. it was just an expected occurrance. i’m not sure how it started. just one day we were in town, opposite Boots, fizzy drinks in hand. there was a wall so we sat. it wasn’t a particularly notable wall rather the result of a town planner’s unimaginative flourish to put walls with planters along the high street. red brick and grey. the type of brick beloved of councils as it is hard wearing and cheap. the plants were not something to look at being a mixture of half-dead greens and littered cigarette butts with a lone ant in search of something sticky. we sat in the sun dressed in black and surplus army greens, trousers made of layers of torn trousers, each one more torn than the first. the heat was no problem. we rolled cigarettes and talked of music, politics and campaigns whilst watching the lesser mortals shop by. the stores would close and we would saunter righteous to our homes for dinner.

moment 9

every time it happens it amazes me. i can be sitting happily at home or lying in bed, nodding off after a tiring day, or even watching tv, or reading a book, then it creeps up. the little nag at first, a small tapping of the needle in a corner of my brain. Tap. Tap. i try to ignore it. refocus on going to sleep, focusing on the programme or the page. TAp. TAp. my stomach begins to clench as it know what is coming. TAP. TAP. then the voices, the cry of what ifs reexamining the day and where i went wrong or think i went wrong. did that person really mean that or were they hiding their true feelings. maybe they secretly despise. you may think that would be enough but not for my mind. it is just getting warmed up. now we top it off with predictive what ifs. what if i do something wrong at work tomorrow? what if my boss sees it? what if they find out i’m not any good? what if – what if – what if. it yells in my ear. my heart beats fast. i begin to sweat. everything around me is reduced to nothing. i just hear the voices. you’re a charlatan! you deserve to fail! you’re no good to anyone. i try to focus on my breathing like i’ve been taught. centre my mind on a single part of my body. focus. come on, focus! the voices laugh and yell at volume. out of control. they jump from cell to cell in my brain. kicking at the positive, knocking it down, crushing it under foot. count to ten, count to ten, count to ten. focus on your breathing. then the disasters tear up as punishment. the abject fears of harm to my family. did i lock the doors? is everyone safe? the voices come back: but if you did lock them, can you be sure? can you be trusted? surely, something so important can’t be trusted to you? count to ten. count to ten. count to ten. breathe in slowly. hold it. breathe out. focus on the toe. the right toe. now follow the toe along the leg. take a journey. one part at a time. the voices quieten to a whisper, not completely gone, just murmuring enough for me to know they are there. i get up, walk to the kitchen, and pour myself a glass of wine.

moment 8

Black and white leather barber chair

i never understood how women could spend so long in a hairdresser. how they could disappear for half a day. half a day! i knew about the colours and potions that had to be applied but could not see the attraction of spending so long on a necessary thing. when i was young, if i was lucky, i got a break from the wonky fringe created by mother and instead went to the Bosun’s. Chair. it was a typical town hairdressers, images of forgotten styles proudly in the windows, chrome chairs and black outlined mirrors. a woman in her forties would listen carefully to my mother’s instructions and produce an approximation. once, when a teen, i took a picture from a magazine of Jon Moss and saidi wanted hair like him. i left disappointed by the outcome. when i grew older, i ventured into the world of gentlemen barbers. there was one called Manns (yes, really) that lay hidden down an alley in Taunton. people would sit waiting, courteously declining their turn if it was the old guy cutting. no one wants a cut from pre-war days. we wanted the latest trend of shaved sides and spikes atop. he just couldn’t cut it. i would leave more satisfied at the price than the result. when i moved to London, i found places that would trim for a tenner. no time wasted. ideal for a frugal me. i would go to the same place and as for the same thing. over the years, we built an understanding. then, overnight, a disaster. it shut. my reassuring friend was no more. so i went on an adventure. entering places i had never before explored. one, we talked fluently in our own language. In vain I tried to sign a style.  I left with something. the worse time i saw a place full of young men with clippers. i thought they must know. Iientered and sat down.  the guy cutting became distracted by a friend and the offer of a cigarette. he continued with fag in hand, clippers in the other, talking, turning to talk to his mate. realising the cutting a hindrance, he handed the clippers to another and walked out to continue his chat.  i left with a disaster on my head. now, i go to the same place as my wife. it is above my usual 10. but i get pampered. coffee is offered, good coffee, and. i lean back and have my hair washed. the massaging releasing the tensions of the week. then the cut. i show a picture and she crafts with scissors a close representation.. i smile at the person in the mirror and leave happy.

moment 7

old men with ghosts in their eyes sit sipping the first of the day. lost friends and family float in the air as carcasses chew on a roasted nut. they remember happier laughter when mates were plenty and pints 50p. now the laughter is full of bitter tears that fall on froth making sad eyes. No Name sits in his usual seat pouring down blackcurrant soda. he looks enviously at the amber glasses. no longer. doctor’s orders. Racist Phil peers angrily over his drink at the diverse staff then takes a sip of his barcadi and coke. they always smile politely. a lone lady with ruddy face and dye streaked silver hair takes a dash of wine then places a beer mat carefully over the rim. she waits for Harold. what’s keeping him? it’s his round. over cooked sausages, too crisp bacon, and soggy hash browns are presented to customers as a culinary delight. even the watered sauce wants to steer clear. businessmen too tight for Costas sit drinking free refill coffee while loudly demanding attention on their mobile phones. charge points are plenty but none are free. the dregs of the morning hang on as the lunchtime crowd are drawn in by special thursday curry with drink. laughter flies up as banter is machine gunned across tables and mobiles are compared. have you seen this photo? are they real? they can’t be. a lost family wanders in search of convenience. a grubby white high chair is offered like a fallen throne and gratefully accepted. a quick wipe down and it’ll be all right. a fruitshoot and chips for the kids, salad and spritzers for the mums. aren’t we being decadent. what would Michael say? thank heavens for colouring sheets and crayons. No Name orders a blackcurrant and starts the sun crossword. the lone lady, cursing Harold, drinks another wine. peppered curry arrives with lone poppadom and too sweet mango chutney. somewhere a cook cries in his grave. the rush comes to an end and the hearty remain. long gone the businessmen and mums – children to collect. Lone lady gives up, sinks her wine and asks for a taxi. she never has a phone. the writer smile’s at the content, sips his beer.


writing is hard. and life gets in the way. i had the day planned. a few household chores. iron a few items for work. clear the table. write. re-write the chapter i’ve been failing to write for two months. but then life sends a curve ball. your path gets skewed. the odd jobs take longer. your mind won’t settle. won’t clear. too focused on the tomorrow. too focused on the before. no space for the now. you become exhausted by it all. the pressure on the self. mind blocks. you are prevented from getting into the creative zone. the point where your mind wanders, creates, imagines. plays games. instead you are stuck in reality. concrete grey blocks surround you. blind your vision. a single tone of grey.

anyway. it’s been one of those days. i got no writing done.

stuff about writing

Image of cup with writing on it. Prose poem writing.

So I have been reading ‘Swallowed by a Whale’ which is a book all about writing by writers and I have come to a few conclusions about writing.

1) Write. You should write. There is no avoiding it. Even if you dislike it. You have to write to become a writer. Many say each day. Or regularly. The amount of time does not matter or the word count. The important thing is to do some writing. Not to put it off. Procrastinate. Clean the tiles in the kitchen with a toothbrush. After all, that blank page will not fill itself.

2) Thinking counts as writing. Daydreaming counts as writing. Going for a walk daydreaming about thinking about writing counts as writing. It is important to do. It solves writing problems. It gives your mind space to create. No need to ask permission. Just do it. I find walking somewhere or sitting in a pub always works for me. Try it.

3) Adverbs are out. And adjectives as well. Exclamation marks for some reason! I have no idea why. They just say they are. Words will be next. You have been warned.

4) Where you write doesn’t matter. At a table. On the tube. In a specially constructed hut with all your nice things that someone else paid for (I wish). I tend to write in pubs. I find if I am away from household things I’m not feeling guilty about the things I haven’t done. I can give myself permission to write. When I’m in the house and writing I feel neglectful.

5) Get your first draft down and don’t worry too much about errors. Do not start rewriting your first few chapters over and over again as much of it will be cut. Mind you, I don’t follow that rule at the moment. I am writing a chapter, taking an enforced break, re-writing that chapter, write a new one. I find it gets me back in to writing as I can’t always write every day. It continues my flow and allows me to think of ideas to add to a chapter and act on it within a short time frame. I’m no good at making novel writing notes. Mine would be too brief so completely incomprehensible when going back to a chapter. Or so detailed, they would take longer than the novel. My approach works for me. It may work for you. Try it. Think about. Then do it your way.

6) Do not compare yourself to other writers or try to be another writer. You can’t. You can only be you. Their books you read have had a lot of time spent on so your first draft won’t be like that. And their lived experience makes them what they are and how they write. If you try to copy, it will be a pale imitation. Write you. Do not worry about other writers’ success. Think about your own triumphs. Set yourself small manageable goals. It is the nature of writing that you will never be happy with what you have achieved. Sorry. But we are riddled with self doubt. Even great writers like Dickens thought their writing might not be up to scratch.

7) Do not read reviews. Positive ones will only enlarge the ego and make you think you are a master of your craft and don’t need to improve. This leads to stagnation. Or you will think you are terrible and stay awake every night thinking about them. Just be happy if someone buys your book. If only just once. Someone liked the idea. You.

9) If you’re writing you are a writer. No one says to an unexhibited artist they’re not an artist or unrecorded musician they are not a musician. If you create you are a creator. You don’t need permission or official recognition to be a writer. Are you writing? Then you’re a writer. It’s that simple.

10) Writers like lists. They’re quick to write.

Thoughts based on Swallowed by A Whale (How to survive the writing life),’Edited by Huw Lewis-Jones.

2022 and all that

Well, 2022 brought a number of changes which impacted on what I write here. I have been submitting a new novel for consideration. But primarily, I have been writing a lot of prose-poetry. This has led me to the new outlet for my writing of Spoken Word.

What is Spoken Word?

Spoken word is when you perform any piece of writing to a group of people. It is often poetry but can be a story, monologue, or something else. It is quite flexible as to format.

Due to writing a lot of prose-poetry and sharing at my favourite writing group, I was encouraged to attend a Spoken Word night. I went along, sat, watched, then thought: I want to set up one of those. And where better than my favourite bookshop in my local area. So far they have been going well and I have been exposed to some great fresh writing that excites me and always leaves me thinking. Such a variety is on offer. All unique voices that should be heard.

Children love Spoken Word and enjoy writing poetry so it is a great thing to do for World Book Week. Why not start by enjoying watching some Michael Rosen, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Hegley, Kate Tempest, or Anthony Joseph?

As well as Spoken Word, I have been plotting and writing another one. I have changed my approach and audience for it. I’m venturing somewhere new. It is challenging and exciting. I’m trying to apply some of the approaches I use for my prose-poetry to the novel writing. I’m not sure it will work. Only time can tell.

What have you been doing?

Wild Words Festival 2022

So Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th June is the Wild Words Festival in Cuffley, Hertforshire. I am on stage Friday at 4:30pm and I must say I am really looking forward to it.

I have been sifting through my children’s poems to find daft ones, silly ones, disgusting ones to share to warm the audience up before we get onto the serious business of wishes.

Wishes are so important to stories. Without them many things would not happen. Events would not take place and characters would not be motivated to do something. Of course, the problem with making a wish is that usually something goes wrong as Billy found out Wishbone Billy.

If you can make the festival, do say high and do let me know what you thought of my books if you bought them. I always love to find out from children what they think. If you can’t make the Wish Wonder you will probably find me hanging out in the festival’s bookshop buying more books when I really shouldn’t. I have so many to read already!

Anyway, whatever you are doing over the weekend don’t forget to take time to find a quiet space and make a wish. Maybe just a small one. You never know who might be listening.

POEM: Bookshop

Quiet are the shelves
Time to let the words whisper.
Tomorrow they will be noisy.
Shouting stories at customers.
Protesting: buy me!
Medusa will leave you as a stone.
Transfixed before the shelves.
If only you had brought a shield.
But then, it is a bookshop.

This poem came about because I was in my favourite bookshop waiting for the end of day. It made me think of how quiet a bookshop must be at night and how each page of the books had a story to tell and wanted our attention.

Moment 57

Almost night. The light dims. The time when the big ones sleep. It is your time. Time to rise and stretch. Take a bite. A drink. To explore. A garden of possibilities.
Not star dark yet.
You sniff the air. Feel the night breeze on your face. Stroking you. A distant sound. Dog calling. Too distant for trouble. A jump. A gymnast on a bar. You dance along. Instinct.
Then sit.
This will be the last time. You feel it. In your paws. In your bones. The coming of the end. No more to watch the flight of falling stars. No more to search among the ground for the exciting. You think back to the loves. The wars. They are gone now. Only you remain.
Silver at your ears. Watching the days. But this the last. No more.
The end of nine.

This came about thinking of a twilight memory. It struck me it would be more interesting if it wasn’t a human but an animal thinking of their life. I chose second person as I wanted to put the reader into the body of the animal. To become the animal. To make them closer to the animal. To increase empathy. I think it works.


Brown and blue gift box

when kevin looked back on the events he was surprised how things had escalated so quickly. from a small gripe. a slight. to action. to conclusion. but one thing he was certain of. it definitely wasn’t his fault. he was not to blame. he was the hurt party. when all things were done. when you looked at things objectively. he was justified in what he did. fully justified. unavoidable in fact.

a contract had been agreed at an early age. when he was young. without his approval. agreed by his parents. their parents. the parents before them. and so on. back through the ages of time. to the first person. the first contract. for first instance. kevin had no say in it. it was done. besides he was too young to voice an objection. to know the full implications of what he had entered into. how it would be with him for years. a chain around his neck. from place to place it was dragged. situation to situation. time to time.

the early years he was too young to know. too unaware. he was given things. he was not told. they were inconsequential items. a pair of woolly socks. a beanie hat in bright yellow. a small brown bear. how he loved that bear. where was it now? long gone. with his youth. hope. naivety. his parents.

he was told of the contract when he was four . of course they did not call it that. they referred to it joyfully. as if some game. but as the time neared. it was made clear. he had to be good. all year. to get the presents. or he would be left nothing. just coal. a single piece of coal. for his crimes.

kevin was horrified at this. why hadn’t he been warned earlier. given the heads up. he would have been much better.the ideal child. not pulled lucy’s hair. squirted the neighbour’s tabby cat with water. thrown a stone at a duck. eaten his broccoli. he had to make amends quick. play lucy’s games. give the cat some trout. feed the ducks. eat some broccoli. lots of broccoli.

the morning arrived. the reckoning. all would be revealed. had he done enough? he looked at the end of his bed. the presents were there. nuts. a tangerine. chocolate. a kazoo. a game where you flicked ball bearings into cardboard holes. all seemed well. but these were the additions. the unasked for. the starters. he made his way down stairs. to the lounge. and there. under the window. by the symbols of the contract. were the presents. specially wrapped to mark the day. he had to wait until his parents were up. that was the rule. he must not be tempted. they could all disappear by one wrong action. he waited. breathless. an age of time. waiting. 

his parents appeared. they smiled. little realising the obligation they had created. gave the signal. he opened the first. the largest. a pale blue metal scooter. push down brake at the back of the foot rest. rubber gripped handles. perfect. the contract for that year was complete. he could relax. a bit.

as kevin grew. his teachers remarked what a quiet, well behaved child he was. what an angel. but kevin was not fooled. he knew he had to be on his guard. to be good. perfect. maintain the contract. he knew what was at stake. he knew his teachers had a straight line to the contract keeper. the adjudicator. mrs higgins had told him so. with a smile on his face. as nigel kicked the classroom door. again. so kevin was good. always. made sure his reports reflected this. studied hard. got A grades. 

when at college he didn’t fall into the trap of long hair, electric sounds and smoky rooms. hallucinogens. experiences. his dad called them reprobates. he kept his hair down. kept away from the pretty  girls. stayed in his room. played sports. had only one pint after matches. studied. kept his hair short. and each year the contract was fulfilled. he had been good. the presents were there.

his father passed. he still visited his mother. cared for her. phoned her regularly. a dutiful son. his mother worried that’s he had yet to meet a nice girl. but he told her not to worry. he was looking for one just like her. like his mum. she just smiled. patted his hand. made them some tea.

in search of a good girl he joined groups. book groups. poetry groups. choir singing. wholesome pursuits. he even once went to a singles night in search of the right girl. a wholesome girl. it was in a bookshop. not just any. the most respectable bookshop. high vaunted ceilings. oak beams. pile bookshelves with only the classics. dickens. brontes. london. austen. eliot. none of that new writing. none of the corruptible stuff he had heard about. certainly no joyce. no hemingway. woolf. and absolutely not any larkin. never any larkin. but all to no avail. but there were no nice girls. they talked of politics. feminism. sex. not like his mother at all. his dear mother. his dear departed mother.

maybe it was because he had attended the groups. had read the sports pages. had two beers after a match. but kevin did not get a present that year. 

vowing to do better. kevin stopped the groups. joined the church. stopped drinking. avoided female sports. gave regularly to christian aid. but still no present. on adjudication day. nothing. no orange. no chocolate. no nuts. not even a lump of coal. how had he been so bad? he had done everything. he had been good. better than good. john in the office had got a watch. and he was sleeping with jane from accounts. be he. good kevin. had got nothing.

it dawned on kevin. it was not his fault. he was not to blame. he had not broken the contract. he had fulfilled his part. fully. to the full. the blame did not lie with him. it was the other to blame. he had broken it. he had torn the unseen threads that lay between them. something had to be done. retribution had to be sought.

so before judgement day. kevin lay in his mother’s house. on his mother’s bed waiting. waiting. waiting for the tell tale sounds. he was prepared. the traps were set. he would have it out. in a calm.reasonable. manner. 

it was after midnight when he heard the sound. the clatter on the roof tiles. the sprinkle of coal dust down the chimney. a sneeze. kevin hid behind the closet door. baseball bat at the ready. in case. he could hear the scrap of the glass on the mantelpiece. he pulled the string. there was was a cry. a thud.

it took kevin a while to position the man on the chair. he being so large and all. and the need to make the ropes tight. real tight. but he got the job done. he removed the hood to see what was there. a ruddy face. white hair. white beard. a red hat. with bell. it was him.

‘where’s my bloody presents?’

‘i’m sorry Kevin. What do you mean?’

‘last year. christmas. no presents. my mum even died.’

‘i’m sorry kevin. a foul up in the system. one of the elves…’

‘that’s not good enough. i was good all year. every year. every year of my life. and you didn’t come. a filing error. i’m worth more than a filing error.’

‘we’re all a little bad,sometimes, kevin.’

‘i’m not. i’m always good.’

‘and now. this isn’t being good kevin.’

‘screw you. you broke the contract.’

‘well kevin, if you’re going to be like that. we may have to forget presents this year.’

‘you wouldn’t…’

‘well, you’ve certainly put yourself on the naughty list…’

‘you bastard.’

‘now now kevin. this isn’t looking good for you.’

‘i want my presents.’

‘maybe next year..’

it was those words that did it. and the smile. and possibly the hoo-hoo on the end. but kevin couldn’t stop himself. he saw blazing red. a lot of red. the red of Father Christmas as he brought the bat down on the fucker’s head. not once. but several times. each time harder than the first. he ignored the crack of bone. the smash of teeth. the blackened eye. he just kept brining it down. all those years. all those opportunities. all those women. and he said this. the bat shattered with the last blow.

the body was easy to deal with. a spade. his mother’s large garden. a dark night. all pre-occupied with celebrations. festival delights. a quick sale of the house would sort that out. he would be long gone. abroad probably. somewhere with a wild nightlife. parties. bikini clad women. no worries. but what to do about the reindeer on the roof? that was a problem.

cleaning woman

Woman in white robe standing in kitchen

It was the towel that did it.

Karen returned home to her bungalow at quarter past six.This was her usual time after cleaning the offices in the evening. A day spent wiping down the surfaces of the food preparation areas. Scrubbing at stubborn coffee spills on counter tops. Vim usually did the trick for that problem. Vacuuming the coarse office carpets. Often in colours no respecting householder would have. Dingy greys, dark blues, grass greens. The toilets were always the worse. Particularly the executive loos. Maybe it was some sort of power play or a case of ‘because they could’ but the floors around the bowls were always covered with pee and carelessly discarded tissue. She really had to work her magic there to get rid of the smell and yellow tell-tales. 

Karen trudged through the open front door stepping over her husband’s discarded jacket on the floor. Precisely where she had told him numerous times not to leave it. She picked it up and put it on the nearby coat peg. 

She carried the bags of shopping through to the kitchen. He was there at the cooker frying. She watched as egg, sausage and bacon spat fat up the wall of tiles around the oven. Each little spit landing and leaving a yellow mark. Hanging there at first then gradually making a trail down the wall towards the surface of the hob where it rested satisfied. A mark of defiance. Defiant at her cleaning. The hours she had spent scrubbing those tiles white last week. The toothbrush she had used dipped in the best bleach then worked into the grout between each tile. The only way. All gone. All lost. Lost to the sizzling spit of a frying pan.

Karen left the shopping by the kitchen table to be sorted later. Made her way to the bedroom. Worn and unworn men’s clothes littered the bed and floor. A battlefield of linen. Reds, blues, greens intertwined with each other. Day used socks and sweaty underpants slept on her pillow. He was always such a dirty man. Unclean. She wondered what had attracted her to him in the first place. He had turned up at their date in a crumpled dark suit, crumpled shirt, crumpled tie. Unpolished shoes. Maybe she felt he needed looking after. That she was the one to do it. A challenge to be taken on. Or was it just to annoy her parents. Knowing his long hair and t-hs dropped for fs would be an a-front to their prim and proper ways. Whatever it was, they were married a year later and she set about trying to train him.

She left the bedroom. Went next door. Her favourite room of the house. She had insisted on the decor. It was her non-negotiable. A fashionable free standing bath. A wide white basin with victorian taps. A wooden bench on which rested three scented candles. Dimmable lighting to set a mood. Tiled flooring with heating. Her sanctuary. But it had been defiled. Again. Two used white, wet towels lay on the floor. In the middle. In the middle of her room. Her place. The clock work in her mind clicked another notch. The final notch. Rang the bell.

Karen made her way back to the kitchen. He was sat at the table eating his fry up. Bacon, eggs, sausages, fried toast. The frying pan had been dumped on top of the pile of washing up in the sink. She lifted it up. Turned around. Hitting him hard on the head. Metal against bone. There was a crack. He slumped in the chair.

He was always a slip of a man. So it was easy work dragging him from the kitchen to the bathroom. She looked with disgust at the trail of blood along the carpet. But she knew she had a fluid that would sort that out. She stripped him of his oil stained jeans and t-shirt. Damn that garage. And with a mighty heave, practised from lifting large vacuum cleaners up flights of stairs, she got him in the bath. 

She put in the plug and turned on the mixer tap. Something nice and warm. She fetched the large container of bleach from the cupboard under the stairs. Pilfered from work. There had to be some perks. She emptied the 5 litre bottle into the bath. Watching the gentle trail of the thick liquid hit the water. His skin. She would teach him how to be clean even if it killed him. 

She turned off the taps. It still wasn’t enough. He still looked grubby and dirty laying in the bath. Her bath. Something more was needed. Something to get him really clean. She went back to the cupboard under the stairs and lifted down the brush from the shelf. The steel wire brush. The one she used to clean the bottom of blackened pans. That would do the job.

She set to his skin. Scrubbing furiously. Scrubbing as if he were the pissed stained floors of the executive loos. The coffee  marked surfaces of the food counters. The tiles in the kitchen. The bath water turned red. She ignored it. She was doing good. Getting the grime away. The years of fried food, engine oil. Dirt on her clean sheets. A late night hand feeling for her arse leaving  fingerprints. He was always so grubby. She scrubbed away.

She pulled the plug and watched as the dirty water receded. A gradual reveal of her handiwork. A pinkish rim was left around the bath marking where the water had been. That would take some sorting but it had been worth it. She had finally taught him how to be clean to the bone.


image of x-ray of teeth. black and white.

(content warning – implied child harming)

She entered the nursing home room. It was impersonal, clean and smelt of decay. The passing of the flesh to decay. It had that disinfectant smell mixed with urine and sweat. She sat on the chair that was just on the wrong side of comfortable. Looked down at the man in the bed. Wrinkles within pale blue pyjamas. Frail. More skeletal than flesh. She took his hand and squeezed it.

Eyes flickered open. Delayed recognition. Then a weak smile. Eyes closed.

“I came as soon as I could. You know. I’m so busy with the kids. And work.”

“Busy. I know,” came the whisper of a voice. Like a birdsong caught in the wind.

“And we’ve been clearing the house. Going through things. Getting things ready.”

“I know.”

“It’s just we found something. We found something when clearing the garage.”


He opened his eyes. Looked intently at her.

“Yes. It was in an old brown box. Pushed to the back. On the top shelf.”


“It was full of envelopes. Brown envelopes.”


“We opened them.”


“When were you going to tell us dad? When were you going to tell us about it?”

“I wasn’t. It was my thing.”

“My thing?! Those envelopes were full of teeth! Teeth!”

“I know.”

“Children’s teeth.”

“I know.”

“Why dad? Why?”

“It was just my hobby. My thing.”

“But children’s teeth. What happened to them?”

“I just collected them. They didn’t need them no more.”

How could he not understand what he did was wrong? How could he be her father?

“You took the children’s teeth?”

“It was relatively painless.”


“Yes. When I first started I wasn’t so skilled. I was nervous. Impatient. It hurt a lot.”

“I bet it did.”

“But as I practised more. I go better. It was over quick.”

“But it is still children. It was still their teeth.”

“They didn’t want them. I knew I was doing the right thing.”

“What about mum? Did she know about you hobby.”

“She knew. She understood.”

“She understood.”

“She knew it was something I just had to do.”

“But why keep the teeth?”

“I don’t know. To remember. To remember them all.”


He squeezed her hand.

“Don’t swear. You know I don’t like swearing.”

She looked down. Wanting to get away. From this beast. This man. Her father.

“Don’t worry. I kept yours too. In a box.”

She pulled her hand away.

“And your sister’s.”


Soup with meat and vegetable in white ceramic bowl

This all came about because I was ill. Some may say: What do you expect? You’re vegetarian. You lot are always ill. You need protein. Meat!

But that is just guff. I’m rarely ill. It was just the usual coming to the end of the term so winding down and immune system taking a break. So hence, I’m ill. I got a cold. A humdinger of a cold. On the scale of colds: a ten. 

So I was lying in bed feeling shit. What’s worse, I hadn’t even been offered a warm drink. Or food. Nothing. My wife had just left me. There. In bed. Suffering. In my misery of endless sniffles, sneezes, throbbing skull, hot sweats, aching bones, shivers.

It doesn’t surprise me I got left. Sometimes I swear she doesn’t even know I exist. Things are such that when I get home from work she always tells me: I’ve eaten. Fix something for yourself.

So I do. I make myself something to eat. And sit alone at the dining table. Just me. The food. A glass of wine. No company. No conversation. She sits in the living room watching Strictly. Catching up on the highlights and the gossip. So when no food came when I was in bed. Gravely ill. It didn’t surprise me.

I guessed it was a “fix it yourself” situation. I wasn’t hungry for a big meal. Just something to tide me over. Keep me going. So I looked in the fridge bucket and came across a few spuds and a leek. Soup. That was the answer. 

I chopped the leek into pieces. Peeled and chopped the spuds.  Threw it all into some water with salt. Let it come to the boil and simmer. The water rolling over the veg in a gentle wave motion in the pan. Over and over. A rolling ocean of veg pieces. When the veg was soft, I turned off the heat. Got the hand blender and set to the mixture. The pieces breaking down. From large to small to a blend of lime green. 

A dash more water. A touch of milk. I don’t like my soup too thick. I don’t like it to hang on the spoon like tinted slime. Ghostbusters’ Goo. I like it to pour off. Fluid. And quick. A bit more heat to the mixture. When it was just right. Just bubbling. I ladled it into a bowl. Two-thirds high. Retired to the table. Consumed. Just me and the soup and the empty house. My wife long gone on an errand. Or work. Which, I don’t know. She doesn’t tell me.

As I sat there. Sipping my soup. I wondered how many days would it be before my wife would check if I was OK and had eaten. One day? Two? At all? Would she even think to? Or were we now so distant it was a foolish question to ask. I know we are both busy. Me with my work. Her with her office job. But surely we weren’t broken? 

I finished the soup. Washed up the bowl. Pan. And things. Returned to bed.

Shivers. Cold. Sneeze. Watering eyes. The coldness of the bed would not improve even when she came to sleep. We stay on our own sides. Each distant from the other. When this started I don’t know. Just one day. Like other things. We just stopped. No longer together. We stayed in our spaces. 

I decided something had to be done. I had to make a stand. Raise the issue. Start a discussion. A dialogue. Put us back on track. But how? 

Then it came to me. A neat solution. I would just eat soup. A bowl of soup each day. Just one bowl. Nothing more. Surely, she would notice my weight loss? Worry if I am eating? Ask about my welfare? Then we would talk. Become one again. It seemed the perfect plan.

So day two. She’s at work. I make soup. Leek and potato soup. One bowl. Consume it. Wash up. Bed. Cold. Shivers. Sneezes. Watering eyes. Sleep.

Day three. She’s at work. I make soup. Leek and potato. One bowl. Consume it. Wash up. Bed. Cold. Shivers. Sneezes. Watering eyes. Sleep.

Day four. I get up. I feel much better. Shower. Dress. She goes to work. I shop. I make soup. Vegetable soup. One bowl. Consume. Clean. 

She comes home. Makes herself something to eat. Watches Strictly Highlights. Says nothing. My trousers keep falling past my waist. I think I need a new notch on my belt. But she says nothing.

Two weeks have past. I’m still on soup. The Xmas holidays have ended. Goodwill to all men. Hah! I only had a bowl of soup on Christmas Day. I fixed it myself. She didn’t notice.

I’m back at work. In the classroom with kids. My ribs are beginning to stick out. I’m sure of it. New notches on my belt. I’ve had to buy new shirts and trousers. Still nothing. I could be starving and she wouldn’t notice. What do I do? Do I carry on? Will she ever notice? But I’ve come so far. It’s so important. But I’m hungry. I need something else to eat. All she ever says is: I’ve eaten. Fix yourself something. I’m wasting away. I’m not sure I can go on. When will she notice?

It’s been a month. She hasn’t noticed. Each day I have soup. A single bowl of soup. I need more nourishment. I need something with bite. Something to sustain me. I feel light-headed and dizzy. My thoughts lose themselves. I’ve just got in from work and she is watching more Strictly Highlights. She’s just said: I’ve eaten. Fix yourself something.

I go to the kitchen. Reach for a bowl. Not once has she checked I’ve eaten. She doesn’t care. I’m invisible to her. She only loves celebrity dance. 

I return to the living room. See the back of her head. It’s focused on the TV screen. Not focused on me. It doesn’t see me. I look at the bowl in my hand. Empty. Rage fills me. Courses through my body. Hot. Red. She didn’t even ask. She didn’t even notice. After all this time. I cry: Fix it yourself! She turns towards me. Eyes wide. The bowl is in the air. I’m bringing it down.

I put the pieces in the new blender. Add some seasoning. A touch of chilli for some punch. Some hot water. And blend. I watch the pieces become smaller. Then nothing. Mix. Swirl. Liquify. I add a touch more hot water. I like my soup to pour off my spoon. Not stick there like tinted slime. Ghostbusters Goo. I pour it into a bowl up to the two-third mark. And cut some fresh French Stick to go with it. I sit at the table in the house. I sip the soup. It’s meatier than I’m used to.